ArriveCan app still frustrates users, experts after bug fixes

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MONTREAL – Calls to end the ArrivalCan app continue from medicine and technology experts as well as travelers, even after the federal government fixed a technical glitch that left some users with unnecessary It was directed to be quarantined.

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While the glitch was fixed last Wednesday, social media platforms have been flooded with posts from travelers complaining that the app is not user-friendly overall.

The union representing border services agents estimates that about 30% of border crossers don’t complete it, prolonging passenger processing times during an already chaotic travel season.

“We’re so short-staffed and spending so much time working with this app that we don’t really have time to do our actual jobs,” Mark Weber, president of the Customs and Immigration Union, said in an interview.

According to Dr. Andrew Morris, professor of infectious diseases at the University of Toronto, the app has also outlived its usefulness in protecting public health.

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“I really have no idea why we would continue to use it as we are now. I think it’s a lot of effort, work and an honest pain for a lot of people for very little benefit,” he said. said in an interview.

Morris also questioned entrants being certified as vaccinated “when we’re not really making sure their vaccines are up-to-date, when the federal mandate to be fully vaccinated The definition does not include three vaccines or one vaccine, let’s say, five or six months after your last dose.”

Launched in November 2020, the ArriveCan app aims to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by ensuring arrivals are dually vaccinated, with faster processing times at the border as a potential bonus. , to facilitate contact tracing.

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It was initially mandatory only for air passengers entering Canada but became mandatory for all border crossers in February 2021. Canadian and international travelers must still submit proof of vaccinations, dates of travel and contact information within 72 hours of arrival.

The government announced last month that the app would be mandatory until at least September 30, and Public Safety Minister Marco Mendesino has hinted that it will end the pandemic as part of a modernization strategy. which seeks to reduce border barriers.

Meanwhile, random testing, which is indicated by the email address associated with the ArrivalCan user, resumed last Tuesday at the country’s four major airports, barely five weeks after it was halted on June 11.

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Bianca Wylie, a technology expert and partner at Digital Public, argued that the lack of oversight and accountability affects an app that contains sensitive information, saying the ArriveCan platform should be voluntary.

“You’re telling people you have to use this app, when we know there are people who don’t feel comfortable using an app like this,” he said in an interview. Don’t need technology.”

“It’s closed code. We don’t know how it works. There’s no advisory board, no oversight … there’s no audit.”

Canada’s Quarantine Act allows for data collection but nowhere specifies the use of any particular technology, Wylie said.

The app was developed by the Canada Border Services Agency and five companies that did not have to participate in a competitive bidding process due to pre-existing agreements with the government.

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Maria Rakina, a Vancouver-area resident who returned from a trip abroad last week, said she received “random emails asking how my quarantine was going – can’t believe they got through the system.” 26 million dollars have been spent.”

The Canada Border Services Agency has said it spent $24.7 million to develop and maintain ArriveCan, on top of $2.2 million for advertising.

After a recent update, passengers arriving at Pearson and Vancouver airports can now complete their customs declaration forms before landing in Canada — Montreal will accommodate the same starting Thursday — Mendesino’s “modernizing our border is part of the plan to create” and reduce border queues.

Transport Canada says the hundreds of automated kiosks used in customs areas at the four largest airports have shaved 40 seconds from a two-minute interaction for passengers toting the app.

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“With thousands of travelers who transit through Toronto Pearson International Airport and use the Advance CBSA Declaration option in ArriveCan, this has the potential to save processing times every day,” the department said in a release earlier this month. said

The Department of Public Safety says ArriveCan has been used successfully by more than 99% of international air travelers and 89% of land crossers.

“These are completion rates when we’ve helped the traveler complete it — or completed it for the traveler,” says Mark Weber, who heads the union representing border services agents.

As for the now-repaired glitch, Public Safety Department spokesman Alexander Cohen said about 3% of those arriving from overseas were affected, with a total of 1.3 million arriving weekly by air and land.

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